If you like Italian wine, you'll love Sardinia -- even if you've never tasted a drop of wine from this Italian region.
The Sardinia wine region, located off the coast of the Mediterranean, is the second-largest island in Italy, after Sicily. But with unsophisticated wines and a heavy reliance on agriculture, it hasn't traditionally been in Italy's spotlight, especially for its grapes and vines. The region has attempted to diversify its workforce and to bring in industries and tourism, though it's too early to tell if Sardinia is on the path of success. However, don't feel too bad for Sardinia -- it's got a couple things going for it, including the 2004 discovery that turned the wine community on its head.
Sardinia is now a bit of a jack-of-all-trades in the wine community. With a resurgent focus on its native grapes, the region produces reds, whites and rosés. It also has several Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) and one Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) wine [source: Sardegna]. These literal seals of approval signify that quality wines are emerging within the Sardinia region.
But back to that recent discovery. What news could possibly be great enough to shake up the wine community and provide the potential to turn around an impoverished region? It has a lot to do with the history of Sardinia, grapes and wine as a whole. So read the next section about the Sardinia wine region's history and culture, where you'll learn what 2004 discovery surprised wine enthusiasts everywhere.
Sardinia Wine Region History and Culture
For the casual wine drinker, Sardinia may not ring a bell. This Italian wine region isn't located anywhere on the boot, but on its own little island. Compared to its island big brother Sicily, Sardinia isn't as well known. But if you fancy wine in the least, you should thank your lucky stars for Sardinia.
In 2004, researchers discovered the remains of vines and sediment that they were able to date back more than 3,000 years to 1200 B.C. [source: Wine Country]. It had been widely accepted that early wines and vines were imported from Mesopotamia. Not so, according to gene traces and tests performed on the Sardinian vines. DNA testing proved that the found grapes in Sardinia are the oldest in the world.
This means that, unlike most other Italian regions -- whose vines were imported in by the Greeks or Romans when each area was conquered -- Sardinia led the pack. The oldest wine was, in fact, produced in Sardinia and later transferred out of the region to Mesopotamia. For years and years Mesopotamia stole the spotlight and the credit, but Sardinia is finally getting its due. So if you're picking up a glass of vino, thank the wine gods that the island of Sardinia produced grapevines.
In the next section, which explores the agriculture of Sardinia, discover how the Mediterranean climate of Italy's second-largest island led to the world's oldest grapes.
Sardinia Wine Region Agriculture
The island of Sardinia consists of very hilly land, with the inclusion of some mountains and plains. The Sardinia wine region contains a fair share of limestone running along the island, as well as various volcanic deposits. The Mediterranean climate leads to hot, dry summers with rainy winters.
Sardinia is not a particularly wealthy or populated region. And while recent developments in Sardinia's wine history may lead to some great wines in the coming years, the region was had been attempting to get away from agriculture. In the past, more than half the population subsisted on the agriculture of the region, cultivating corn, vine, olives, fruits and vegetables. In an attempt to create a better balance of economics, the region branched out into small industries and tourism. As a result, the amount of people making their living from agriculture has significantly decreased to less than a fifth of the workforce. But time will tell if the vine history developments will push a swing back into agriculture for the Sardinia region.
Though its wines have never been thought of as the cream of the crop, Sardinia is slowly trying to come into its own with its historic vines. Read on to find out the famous wines of the Sardinia wine region.
Famous Wines of the Sardinia Wine Region
Sardinia's popular red and rosé wines include:
- Cannonau: This is arguably Sardinia's most famous red wine. Armed with a Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) designation, it has a rather high alcohol content, with a warm flavor and a slightly bitter aftertaste similar to dark chocolate. This wine also has a relatively short aging period of just about one year.
- Monica: This dry, light red DOC wine is even younger than Cannonau -- its aging period is only six months. It has a fruity smell of either plums or blackberries with a bit of a sour, tannic taste.
- Carignano: This DOC wine can come in red or rosé. The fruity red is dry and strong, with a bright ruby-to-violet color. The rosé version is a light pink with a very floral smell, rich taste and light body [sources: Sardinia Point, Sardegna].
Sardinia's popular white wines include:
- Vermentino: This dry, warm-tasting wine also comes in sweet or sparkling. It has a fruity and floral fragrance with a bit of a bitter aftertaste. The Vermentio di Gallura is the only Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) wine from Sardinia.
- Semidano: This golden wine is intense but soft, with a delicate taste. It was once considered a dessert wine but has enjoyed a rebirth as a table wine.
- Nuragus: This white wine is popular with growers because its grapes traditionally give good harvests and resist parasites. It's slightly acidic and should not be aged [sources: Sardinia Point, Sardegna].
Now grab a glass and give thanks for the Sardinia grapes that started it all. For more information, visit the links on the next page.
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
- Authentic Italy. "Sardinia Wine." (Accessed 2/7/09) http://www.authentic-italy.co.uk/sardinia_wine.php
- Cia Sardinia. "Discover the Island: Economy." (Accessed 2/7/09) http://www.ciaosardinia.com/eng/sardinia/economics
- Clyde Thomas Wines. "Denomination of Origin Laws." (accessed 02/16/2009).http://www.clydethomaswines.com/Denomination%20of%20Origin%20Laws.html
- ItalianMade.com. "Wines: Quality Laws and Labels." (accessed 02/16/2009). http://www.italianmade.com/wines/laws-and-labels.cfm
- Planet Ware. "Sardinia." (Accessed 2/7/09) http://www.planetware.com/italy/sardinia-i-sa-sa.htm
- Promozione Italia. "Sardinia (Italy)." (Accessed 2/7/09) http://www.promozione-italia.com/eng-sardinia/region-sardinia.html
- Regione Lombardia. "The Wine and Food Roads of Lombardy." (Accessed 02/08/09)http://www.annuariodelturismo.it/cd_vini/ViniDiLombardia/EN/strade.htm
- Reiss, Levi. "I Love Italian Wine and Food--The Lombardy Region." (Accessed 02/08/09) http://www.theitalianwineconnection.com/Wine_Articles/My_Own_Italian_Wine_Articles/lomb.php
- Sardegna.net. "Sardinia -- Wine, vineyards and story." (Accessed 2/7/09) http://www.sardegna.net/docs/culinario/wine_e.html
- Sardinia Point. "An island, A continent: Wine." (Accessed 2/7/09) http://www.sardiniapoint.it/6831.html
- Weingrod, Alex. "Industrial Involution in Sardina." Sociologica Rulais. March 25, 2008. (Accessed 2/7/09) http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/119602260/abstract?CRETRY=1&SRETRY=0
- Wine Country. "Sardinia." (Accessed 2/7/09) http://www.winecountry.it/articles/wine-history-and-culture/183
- Winegeeks. "Wine Regulations: Old World Countries." (accessed 02/16/2009) http://winegeeks.com/resources/106